Let me start off by saying up front that this may be the best lamb we have ever eaten. I did all the right things ... bought fresh lamb from a farmer who raised the critters as humanely as possible and then I selected this recipe. The recipe looks complicated and I almost turned to something else because of that but when you break it apart it isn't that complex at all - just 4 relatively simple steps.
The four-step method for roasting these lamb racks—a quick sear for color and flavor, a brief rest so the meat can relax, a coating of bright, lemony parsley pesto and cheesy breadcrumbs, and then a roast in a hot oven—yields lamb that’s tender, tasty, juicy, and beautiful, to boot.
This was the centre of our Christmas dinner and what a centrepiece it was!!!
Pesto-Crusted Racks of Lamb
For the crumb coating
2 cups 1-inch-cubed fresh baguette (with crust)
1-1/2 oz. (1/4 cup) pine nuts, toasted
1 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup using a rasp grater
1 tbs. finely grated lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
1 medium clove garlic, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pesto
1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (from 1/2 small lemon)
1 medium clove garlic, chopped
For the lamb
3 8- or 9-bone frenched lamb racks (about 1-3/4 lb. each)
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt, for finishing
Make the crumb coating
Pulse the bread cubes, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, lemon zest, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Transfer to a medium bowl.
Make the pesto
Pulse the parsley, rosemary, oil, lemon zest, garlic, and 1/2 tsp. salt in the food processor until a coarse paste forms.
Sear the lamb
Heat a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Rub the lamb racks all over with the oil and then, working with one rack at a time, sear them, meat side down, until browned, about 4 minutes each. Pour off any accumulated fat, as necessary. Let rest on a cutting board for about 20 minutes to cool.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
Roast the racks
Rub one-third of the pesto over the meat side of each rack. Firmly press the crumb coating over the pesto. Arrange the racks bone side down in a large roasting pan (if the racks seem crowded, rest the bones on the edge of the pan). Roast until the crumbs are browned and a probe or instant-read thermometer inserted into the eye of the meat registers 135°F for medium rare, 25 to 30 minutes, or 145°F for medium, about 40 minutes.
Let the racks rest in the pan at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a carving board and carefully slice between the bones to make individual chops. Lightly sprinkle the cut sides of each chop with sea salt and serve with any crumb coating that fell off during carving.
Make Ahead Tips
You can make both the crumb coating and pesto up to 1 day ahead and keep them refrigerated in separate airtight containers.